Zwischen Welten tells a story of cultural clashes and understanding, set amongst the beautiful barren landscapes of Afghanistan, and its never ending war.
Director Feo Aladag sets both her main characters in between worlds. Jesper (Ronald Zehrfeld) is a German commander balancing the demands of his hierarchical institution and local Afghan villagers, all while trying to fend off Taliban attacks.
His translator, Tarik (Mohsin Ahmady) shares this impossible task, putting his – and his sister’s – lives at risk in the process. He and his sister represent the hope of a brighter future for their country. The symbolism is crudely obvious and little is left to guesswork – their clothing is far brighter and hope-inspiring than any other characters.
As an international relations exercise – an allied German-Afghan collaboration – the film is a great success. As quality cinema, it falls disappointingly short. Too often predictable and overly clichéd, Inbetween Worlds leaves you in between yawns.
The short, sharp, tension-building shots smack too plainly of Hurt Locker and American Sniper, both movies based on the recent Middle-East Conflict. I’m not clear as to whether the movie advances our understanding, or tells a story we already know too well.
Unsurprisingly, there are points of cultural friction – Afghan villagers are indignant at the mercy killing of a cow. There are moments of tragedy whenever a voiceless man in dark clothing turns up with a weapon. Jesper’s mental anguish over his brother’s death is the film’s ‘you weren’t there’ moment. The supposedly heartfelt moment when Jesper hands Tarik his dead brother’s watch comes over as a piece of kitsch sentimentality.
My conclusion is the only thing more predictable than the film’s plotline – that sadly Zwischen Welten falls short of its potential.
By Benjamin Wein